Sherman Hemsley was an American actor who rose to fame with his role as George Jefferson on the hit television series, “All In The Family.” He was born on February 1, 1938, in South Philadelphia to a hardworking single mother. Hemsley attended Barrat Middle School and Bok Technical High School until he dropped out of tenth grade. He then joined the United States Air Force and served for four years. Afterwards, Hemsley worked for the United States Postal Service while attending acting classes during the night.
During the 1970s, Hemsley moved to New York to try out his luck as a full-time actor. He joined the Negro Ensemble Company and toured with the group for a year. Hemsley later moved to the Urban Arts company and made his Broadway debut in the musical, “Purlie.” He also made appearances in “But Never Jam Today,” “The Lottery,” and “Old Judge Mose is Dead.” In 1971, screenwriter and producer, Norman Lear, spotted him and offered him a role on his new sitcom, “All In The Family.” While Hemsley was reluctant to leave his theatrical career, it proved to be the right decision in the end.
“All In The Family” ran for eight years until it was cancelled in 1979. Hemsley then joined the cast of the show’s spin-off, “The Jeffersons.” The latter became widely successful and ran for more than a decade. During the following decades, Hemsley appeared in several television shows including “Amen,” “Goode Behavior,” and “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” The actor reprised his iconic role as George Jefferson for Tyler Perry’s “House of Payne.” In 2012, Hemsley was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame.
At the time of his passing, Hemsley had a long and celebrated career in Hollywood. He had starred in multiple leading roles and cameos and even had a brief stint as a musician. On July 24, 2012, Hemsley died at his residence in El Paso, Texas, due to complications associated with the lungs. Unfortunately, controversies surrounded the actor even after his death. One of the burning questions that fans wanted to know was this: was Sherman Hemsley gay? Let’s find out the truth below.
VOTE: What was Sherman Hemsley’s Sexuality?
Sherman Hemsley’s Relationships
With a career spanning decades paired with an iconic onscreen role, it’s no surprise that there are many speculations about Hemsley’s life. Apparently, the actor was notoriously private when it came to his personal affairs. It’s well-known that Hemsley never married and didn’t have any children. So, for the longest time, the general public suspected that the actor was gay.
At the time of his death, Hemsley was living with his long-time friend and business partner, Flora Enchinton, and his good friend, Kenny Johnston. However, it’s important to note that Hemsley and Johnston were already living together prior to meeting Enchinton. According to the latter, she met the pair when they were moving from Los Angeles to start anew. Although it was heavily implied that Hemsley and Johnston had an intimate relationship, it was never confirmed.
In 2007, VH1 ran a story which listed Hemsley as one of the three top gay black stars in Hollywood. While there were no objections from the actor, the statement was never confirmed either. After Hemsley’s death, a journalist named Michael Musto claimed that the actor was indeed gay. In an article he wrote for “The Village Voice,” Musto stated his disappointment at the actor’s label as a “lifelong bachelor.”
Up until today, Hemsley’s sexuality is yet to be confirmed. If the actor was truly gay, it’s not surprising that he chose to stay in the closet. Hollywood is known for its terrible treatment of actors coming from minority backgrounds. It’s highly plausible that Hemsley decided not to disclose his sexuality in order to protect his career and opportunities. With that being said, it’s interesting that the actor remained a bachelor and lived with a close male companion.
Sherman Hemsley’s Death
After Hemsley’s death in 2012, controversies and lawsuits ensued. According to the actor’s will, his close partner, Flora Enchinton, was the sole beneficiary of his estate. However, when the morgue located his next of kin, they ended up calling a man named Richard Thornton. Thornton claimed to be Hemsley’s half-brother, stating that the duo shared the same father.
Thornton then filed a lawsuit claiming that Hemsley wasn’t of sound mind when he made the will. He also wanted to bury the actor’s remains in Pennsylvania instead of El Paso as per the latter’s wishes. The court proceedings delayed Hemsley’s burial for at least four months. Although a DNA test confirmed Thornton to be the actor’s brother, the judge ruled that it was “admissible only for the limited purpose of establishing a right to inherit.” Enchinton also strongly implied that Thornton only cared about the money which amounted to $50,000.
The judge issued a ruling in favor of Enchinton, allowing Hemsley to be buried at Fort Bliss National Cemetery in El Paso. Unfortunately, Thornton wasn’t satisfied with the decision and issued an appeal. According to reports, the court denied his appeal, stating that Hemsley was already buried.
Was Sherman Hemsley Gay?
Yes, Sherman Hemsley was gay. Although the actor himself never confirmed his sexuality, it’s strongly believed that he was gay. Hemsley never married and instead lived with two of his closest friends. One of his companions, Kenny Johnston, was believed to be his lover. There have also been proclamations of his sexuality in the press throughout the years, all of which were never denied by the actor. So, it’s assumed that Hemsley was indeed gay.